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What happened between TikTok and Donald Trump?

President Trump's comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a flop and TikTokers are the ones to blame

What happened between TikTok and Donald Trump? President Trump's comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a flop and TikTokers are the ones to blame

Last Saturday, the President of the United States Donald Trump hosted his first rally since the start of the health emergency. The rally was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Following months of gaffes for his declarations about both COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, the rally was the perfect opportunity to restore strength to his campaign: the event was supposed to welcome more than a million people were expected, but only 6,000 showed up. It was never seen before flop in Trump's history and it was also TikTok's fault. Here is what happened. 

  • On 12/06 on Twitter, it was announced that on 19/06 the President would have been in Tulsa to host the Make America Great Again Rally: the biggest indoor event since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency. To participate, you had to register via an app (Trump 2020). Participation was free.

  • The choice to host the event on 19/06, on the day of Juneteenth (in commemoration of the liberation of slaves after the Civil War) and precisely in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which in 1921 was the scene of a massacre of blacks by a group of white supremacists, it had many African Americans and BLM supporters turned up their noses. For this reason, the event was moved to the next day, 20/06.

  • On 06/15 Brad Parscale, one of the managers of Trump's election campaign, announced via Twitter more than 1 million requests to participate.

  • On 20/06, however, 6,200 presented themselves to the building that could accommodate almost 20,000 people. The upper ring has remained empty, as has the external space. The flop forced Trump to cancel the speech scheduled for all those who failed to enter.

  • Several newspapers said that it was TikTok's responsibility. According to reports from The New York Times, TikTok would have hosted a campaign to boycott the event: several users would have made reservations and then would not show up. The initiative would have gained popularity especially in the fan community of the Korean pop band BTS. On TikTok and also other social networks such as Twitter you could find very detailed guides on how to participate in the boycott, including some tricks to avoid having to give your real phone number; content that today has been fully deleted.

The initiative of young TikTokers had its importance, but it was not the only reason responsible for the flop. The event, in fact, was not a limited number: the habit of allowing registration through the app is a system that serves the campaign organizers more to collect data for the surveys, but the deceptive tickets reserved by users for themselves, that were free and unlimited, would not have prevented the real supporters from filling the building. That means that if more than 6,200 people had actually shown up, regardless of the TikTok boycott, the arena would still have filled up.

The reason for the failure must, therefore, be sought for other reasons. Oklahoma has traditionally been a very conservative state, where the President enjoys support given almost for sure. Donald Trump's press office spoke of some protesters who prevented several people from entering, but reporters who were present on the spot deny this version. It is far more likely that fear of the virus played a much important role: infections in Oklahoma have been increasing visibly in recent weeks. The rally, in fact, had been organized against the opinion of the health authorities and without imposing the use of masks or physical distancing: paradoxically, the very fact that more than 1 million people had been announced could have discouraged many supporters.

However, this episode shines the light on a new segment of very young audiences that are also gaining space in the political game. Generation Z is starting to make itself heard on various sensitive issues: already a few weeks ago, following the murder of George Floyd, through TikTok, the Korean band BTS had raised over $1 million to donate to various organizations that deal with African American rights. In the past few days, then, it has gone viral the hashtag #SaveBarron: a petition of over 15,000 signatures to save the President's son, young 12-year-old Barron Trump, from the White House.